On September 29, about 30 Staunton-area residents gathered at the Darjeeling Café for a night of poetry and prose readings and a sneak preview of the Café’s new location at 103 West Beverley. Hosted by SWAG Writers—that’s the Staunton-Waynesboro-Augusta Group of Writers, the local wing of the Blue Ridge Writers Club—the event featured local author Janet Lembke and visiting poet Todd F. Davis. Also on hand was Carey McCallum from The Sacred Circle to sell the readers’ books.
Lembke has published 18 books, including several essay collections and translations, most dealing with the natural world. Her most recent book, Because the Cat Purrs, is about human relationships with other species—cats (of course), chickens, morning glories, turtles, and many others. Davis is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently The Least of These, published by Michigan State University Press. His work is also focused on the natural world.
Lembke kicked things off by reading an introduction to her cats that appear in her book, and then also read sections about groundhogs and other local wildlife. Davis then read—mostly from his most recent book and an earlier collection, Some Heaven, but he admitted that he changed what he had planned to read because of Lembke’s selections. In response to her groundhog story, Davis read a woodchuck poem. And because of her comments about deer, Davis read one of his deer poems.
Following the readings, both authors engaged with the audience about a range of subjects, from the craft of writing to the ins and outs of publishing.
Known for hosting literary events and book clubs, the Darjeeling Café’s new location—which boasts a stage in the center of its east wall—seemed ideal for this event. SWAG, which was formed earlier this year by a group of local writers, announced plans to continue the reading series and also hold open mic nights for writers in the near future.